Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Take Heart, I AM.

Oh how rich and beautiful are the readings for tomorrow's daily Mass, the Wednesday after Epiphany of the Christmas season. We see John in his Epistle continue to speak of the love that is God, and of our necessity of having it in our hearts.  Then we see this amazing and familiar scene of Jesus Christ walking across the water toward his Disciples as they are buffeted by the wind of an angry sea.  Mark, of the three evangelists, is the hardest on the apostles.  He is quick to point out their humanity, their failure.. their doubt.   There is so much more to the story though, so many gems that it would take many blogs to even begin to dissect them.   I want to touch on a few that really call out to me.

The first I'd like to talk about is the fact that Jesus went up on the mountain.  After he had performed a great miracle, one that revealed him to the people as a great prophet, he then went up on a mountain to pray.   For the most part the mention of going up on a mountain meant an encounter with God.   Here Jesus is going to be with his Father, to speak to him in communion.   He reminds us that at all times we must take a moment to be with God in solitude, in silence, one on one.  That's an important reminder.  We must make time for our relationship with God.  Scripture often records Jesus as going off alone to pray.  He never stays there though, he immediately comes back to be with others in response.  The Catechism says "His words and his works were the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret." (CCC 2602)  That is so important for us to remember.  Prayer is not just about petitioning, or asking.. it's about changing.   Changing the world, and changing us.  Our words and our works should flow from our prayer.  If we pray for peace?  We should speak and work for peace.  If we pray for justice? We should speak and work for justice.

Then Mark tells us that Jesus saw they were in trouble.   They were fighting against the wind.  The waves were buffeting them about and they were having trouble rowing.  Jesus gives us a strong example here.  His response to prayer is to look to see what the problem is.  He prays for God's will at all times, this we know.  Then in response, he goes out to find those in need of help.  He doesn't sit idly by when he notices they are in trouble, instead he does whatever it takes to get out to them.  That's our example.  That's our Christ.  We are not called to simply pray and then watch as the world falls apart.  We are called to pray, and then to work for the will of God in the world. We look for the winds, and we look for those buffeted by them.   We look for those who need God's loving hand.  We then do whatever it takes to serve them and to serve God.   Sometimes it seems like it's impossible.  Sometimes it is going to take a miracle.  Sometimes it is going to take walking on water.  We still have to get out there and in faith, try.

Then when they see him they are terrified.  Oh how like the Apostles we truly are.  We want to go to Heaven, all of us would freely admit that.  How it scares us that God might ask the difficult of us, the suspension of doubt... ask us to believe fully and truly.   We often say we do.  We often claim that we would do whatever God asks, and that we truly believe with 100% what our faith proclaims.  Do we though?  If we did the world would be changed.  If we believed that Christ was coming to us in the Eucharist, with the power of the universe in the palm of our hands... .would we ever miss Church?  Would we ever miss daily mass?  Would we ever complain about having to do this or that?  There is an old song that says "Oh lord, I want to go to heaven... but I don't wanna go tonight."  So many of us are trying to prop ourselves up against the Juke Box, to have one more bit of fun. 

Jesus says to them, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear."   Have courage son!  Literally "I AM."  Have no fear.  Oh how that we would take that to our own hearts this day.  Jesus, as he stands on the water itself, Master of the whole universe, showing that even creation itself is subject to Him.... says have no fear.  John was so clear in our need to reach that level of love, that perfected love, the love that allows us to cry out Abba Father, thy will be done!  "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love."  Only then, only when we truly let go and let God, only when we realize how great and perfect his love is for us.. that's when we start to truly even grasp how wide and deep his mercy flows. 

Here you and I are, floating on this great sea of the world.  We are buffeted by the storm clouds of sin.   We are tempted by the waves of seduction.  Our hearts are constantly abused by the whims of the flesh.  When we try to row by ourselves, we don't make any headway against those winds.  The chaotic ocean of sin is only calmed when the Master of Creation gets into the boat with you.  That's our challenge.   To invite Jesus into our hearts, into our lives.. then we can't stop there... We must go out into the world, and make a difference.  That's what Mass is all about.   Joining together in prayer to receive Christ fully, body, soul and divinity, into our bodies.. that he can begin to change us.. then turning and bringing that visible manifestation of His prayer into the world through our words and actions.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."